Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hit the Rat
If you didn't know, "The Two and Only" has a singing rat as its mascot. It has been so since our first performance at the Atlantic Theatre in New York. The Rat was an opening night gift from my friend Chris Wallace on our maiden run in New York. A Sinatraesque  rodent singing New York, New York was the perfect symbol of my burgeoning Broadway journey. Here is a former blog that I wrote on the subject.  The Rat
At the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach, Florida, the booth was not easily accessible from back stage. This meant that John had to be in the booth for the 15 minute and 5 minute call to the "actors". Normally he will come into my dressing room to give me those calls and "hit the rat" who sings the appropriate phrase for the time.
His official name is Rando the Rat Bastard. It is a stuffed toy rat that has a voice chip inside. Cradling a cigarette in one hand and the other in his tuxedo pocket, he sings the song in three phrases on three separate "hits". At half hour to show time, with the first hit, the rat belts out "If I can make it there..."At 15 minutes before show time on the second hit he croons, "I'm gonna make it anywhere its up to you New York..."  And finally with five minutes until the curtain goes up on the third hit he sings with great falsetto gusto, "NEW YORKKK," holding the note with great pride.  That means to me.... show time.
This has been the routine with every show we have ever done at every theatre. Before John took over the show, from being the sound man, all my other stage managers performed the same routine.   If the rat is punched inadvertently in transit he is reset to the top of the song so the tradition can be maintained.  He even travels in his own small case inside the other cases. When we accidentally lost the rat a few years ago his identical "rat stand by" twin continued the tradition. 
But now there is a break in tradition at the Crest. John can not "punch" the rat in conjunction with the show calls. I could have "squeezed the rat" myself, but that is not the way it has always been done. There is a rule in Show business that if it is working don't change it. 
On the tour of "My Fair Lady" years ago a general manager discovered that they were transporting a large chandelier from theatre to theatre at great expense that was only used for a quick ball room scene.  He told the producers that if they didn't travel with that chandelier they could save $100,000.00 during the span of the tour.  The producer thought for a minute and said, "You know... we don't know why that scene works... it could be the chandelier... don't cut it."
So it is.  I really could not activate the rat myself.  
John asked the theatre stage manager who was working stage left to "hit the rat" when he gave me the calls for show time. Dave walked in the first night and said," Half-hour... and I am supposed to do something with your rat?"  He seemed a little concerned about what this duty might entail. I pointed to the rat who was hung over one of the make up table lights. He looked back at me with a nervous glance. I said, "Squeeze his stomach",which he did. We were off to a great start.
As the run progressed Dave got into the routine, but always with a different phrase. "Five minutes, time to choke the rat.... 15 minutes time to express the rodent.... Half hour time to molest the mouse." He would laugh, I would laugh and the show was off to a good start. 
They say if you find a job that you like to do you will never work a day in your life.  How true.
As you were,

1 comment:

Roomie said...

"How true!!!" Couldn't have said it better myself.....
Carry on,